Review: The North Face Hyper Air // The New Gore-Active Membrane

Last December, The North Face Released the Hyper Air GTX made of Gore’s new active membrane.  It was the first jacket on the market made of the new laminate and has created quiet the stir in the outdoor community by pushing the limits of the waterproof-breathable barrier.  It is not without its flaws, however, and with Arc’Teryx bringing to market the updated Norvan SL Hoody that uses the same active membrane, it’s about time I give you all a little insight into the membrane, it’s performance, and my experience with the Hyper Air GTX.

First let me say that the traditional Gore Active membrane is my go to for waterproof-breathable garments because of its incredible breathability.

when Gore released the new Active Shell, dropping the out layer of nylon and cutting the weight of the traditional Gore-Active jacket in half, I had to give it a try.

As a backpacker, fastpacker, and fast walker in general, I tend to create a lot of body heat as I move.  The stormy conditions I throw myself into rarely call for the water resistance of Pro Shell that the snow sports community so ravenously craves.  Sorry folks. I’ll learn to ski this season—I promise.  But until then, Active Shell is my jam.

So when Gore released the new Active Shell, dropping the out layer of nylon and cutting the weight of the traditional Gore-Active jacket in half, I had to give it a try.  I picked one up in March of 2016 and have been blasting up and down mountains along the I-90 corridor ever since.

Here’s the skinny:
Material: Gore-Tex Active ePTFE laminate w/ carbon backer
Weight: 200g / 7.0 oz
Packed Dimensions:  ~5’’x 3.5’’ x2’’
Zippers: PU coated main zipper and pocket zips
Features: Two hand pockets, adjustable cuffs, hem, and hood
Sizing: I’m 6’1, 172 lbs. and a medium fits well

 


What’s good?

Most runners have opted to ditch the waterproof layer when just going out for a day.  If you wear a PU shell, you’ll be soaked from your own sweat and the condensation on the inside of the jacket.  If you go without a PU shell, you’ll be soaked from the rain.  There was never any other option.

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The Hyper Air GTX works great as a wind layer when I stop for breaks. 

Most companies answered this dilemma with a light weight, fast drying, nylon shell with a DWR coating. Most notably is the Patagonia Alpine Houdini and my friends who have them rave about how dope they are.  “They’re so breathable.” “They stop the wind.” “They pack down to nothing.” Here’s the thing though—they aren’t waterproof.  So when the Hyper Air came out—it was a must have at the weight penalty.

Trip after trip, I’m blown away at how comfortable this material is.  I’m currently carrying a lightweight Polartec power grid fleece and my Hyper Air as my go to summer/fall running system and I couldn’t be happier.

But is it breathable? Yeah, it’s crazy breathable.  Companies should advertise the product as a breathable-waterproof jacket rather than vice versa. The breathability in this jacket is the real product: I ran a few miles with this in 65 degree temps and mild humidity around town just to see how it feels. It feels great. My first trip storming up the mountains in March was wild.  40 degree temps, consistent light rain, and gusts up to 30 mph.  100% wind proof, 100% waterproof, and I didn’t feel at all clammy.

In warmer weather, I have noticed that my sweat hasn’t evaporated and that my base layer becomes wet, especially on my back and underarms, but this is still the most breathable hardshell I’ve ever worn by a long shot.

Trip after trip, I’m blown away at how comfortable this material is.  I’m currently carrying a lightweight Polartec power grid fleece and my Hyper Air as my go to summer/fall running system and I couldn’t be happier.  Sub 1-pound weather protection for two pieces that live at the bottom of your hydro pack. Talk about an insurance policy.


 What’s not so good?

I’m a little scared to wear it. When Gore decided to beef up the ePTFE coating we are accustomed to seeing on the inside of their Pac-Lite shells (or 2 layer gore shells) and drop the nylon outer layer, they cut the weight of the jackets in half, but sacrificed any durability whatsoever.

We all knew this membrane was going to be an issue when TNF released the Hyper Air.  Warranty claims ranged from, literally, wearing holes in the shoulders from too heavy backpacks, to, I kid you not, the permanent waterproof laminate being pulled off the jacket with a sticker from a public transportation ferry.

Warranty claims ranged from, literally, wearing holes in the shoulders from too heavy backpacks, to, I kid you not, the permanent waterproof laminate being pulled off the jacket with a sticker from a public transportation ferry.

I’ve been very fortunate with mine thus far, and as TNF revamps the jacket for Spring (hopefully) we’ll see a more durable version in the very near future. Until then, they are covered by two lifetime warranties: one from The North Face, and one from Gore-tex.


How does this improve my experience?

For starters you get full weather protection, no ifs ands or buts. It’s that good.  You also get to drop the weight of your running kit, unless you already own a Norvan SL which weighs 4 oz.  SL is for Silly Light, right? As a wind shell you get the breathability and resistance of the Alpine Houdini but the full waterproofing you’ve come to expect from a Gore product.

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A quick layer change as we gain elevation and the rain sets in.

If you’re on the fence, I say give it a try.  $249 and two life time warranties is a hard deal to pass, especially when you’re dealing with a brand new fabric and a breathability factor that’s through the roof.  Check out the Norvan SL for an extra $50 and save yourself 3 oz.  Right now, I don’t think you can go wrong with either.

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